Struggling Yankees ace giving Hal reason to draw new deadline blueprint
It will be a pivotal start for Masahiro Tanaka when he toes the rubber for the New York Yankees Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox.
Tanaka, who is supposed to be the No. 1 starter on the Yankees’ staff, enters the series opener while in the worst slump of his major-league career. His 6.34 ERA is ranked 90th and next-to-last among qualified pitchers. His bloated 1.52 Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP) is 79th on the list.
The last time Tanaka faced the Red Sox was April 27 at Fenway Park. He blanked Boston with a complete-game, three-hit shutout. After that gem, he strung together two more solid starts in Toronto and Cincinnati, giving the organization hope that his struggles were over.
But then came the clunker against the Houston Astros, when Tanaka lasted only one and two-thirds innings, surrendering eight earned runs, including four homers. His following start against the Tampa Bay Rays was another tough one to watch. He coughed up six earned runs, including three homers, in just three innings.
Tanaka then regained his dominant form against Oakland, striking out 13 batters over seven ⅓ before riding the roller coaster to another letdown in his last start, in which the righty was handed his fifth loss after allowing seven Orioles to cross the plate.
Which Tanaka will show up next time?
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That is the question haunting Yankees principal owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman.
The Yankees entered 2017 with Tanaka as their only sure-thing starter. So far, he’s been the biggest disappointment while Luis Severino and Michael Pineda have been surprises and left-handers C.C. Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery have been steady.
For the Yankees to make the playoffs — they currently lead the American League East and are ten games over .500 — they need a reliable top-notch arm in their rotation.
If it can’t be Tanaka, and the Yanks are in the race, Hal and Cashman will be forced to decide whether or not they’re willing to part with blue-chip prospects (some of which were acquired during last year’s on-the-fly rebuild) to obtain a new starter.
When asked about how the Yankees will act at the July 31 trade deadline, Hal suggested they will be buyers, but not at the expense of their top prospects.
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The reality check? Pitching doesn’t come cheap these days. And if the opportunity is within reach to fill the streets of the Bronx and seats of Yankee Stadium with fans’ cash flow, it will be tough for Hal to let posturing and prospects come in the way of New York playoff baseball again.